COEUR d'ALENE - The Coeur d'Alene School District's three new elected trustees took their seats on the dais for the first time Monday at the Midtown Center, and quickly changed the board's leadership.
Tom Hearn is the new chair, and Christa Hazel is now vice-chair.
Hearn, Hazel and Dave Eubanks won their trustee positions by election in May, and were sworn in at the start of the regular monthly meeting. The July meeting also serves as the five-member board's annual reorganization meeting, when officers are elected by the board members.
Hearn noted that the new trustees are coming on board following a heated election race.
"I really hope that this board can get along, that we can move forward," Hearn said.
He replaces Tom Hamilton in the chairman's seat. Hamilton did not attend Monday's meeting. At the start of the meeting, board member Terri Seymour said Hamilton was absent due to a "crisis" at work.
Seymour opposed the selection of Hazel as vice-chair, and said she would have favored Hamilton in the position because the new trustees lack experience running school board meetings.
Seymour chaired the meeting until the conclusion of the reorganization motions, and then handed the gavel over to Hearn, who led the remainder of the session.
Hearn said he knows the district faces challenges, but that he is excited about joining the board, and looks forward to working with a "great administrative team."
Hazel and Eubanks each echoed Hearn's sentiment.
It was Matt Handelman's first meeting as superintendent. The district's former associate superintendent, Handelman was tapped to serve in the top leadership position in May, after Hazel Bauman announced her resignation to take a position in western Washington.
It was decided during Monday's meeting that Hearn and Hazel will serve on the board's negotiating team when contract talks resume, likely later this month.
During the public comment section of the meeting, the new trustees heard from Brent Regan, one of the recently departed school board members.
Regan lost the Zone 1 seat to Hazel.
"I wanted to thank the trustees and congratulate you all. Now you get to sit on that side and you're going to find out very quickly that it's a different perspective, and you've got to have a different attitude, and there are some pitfalls," he said.
He said that while considering ways the district could save money, he noticed that the district had paid about $4,700 to Range Northwest, a downtown design firm, for graphic design work and printing work for Sorensen Magnet School's spring fundraiser auction. He noted that Range Northwest's owners are Eden Irgens and Adam Graves. Irgens sits on the board of Balance North Idaho, a political action committee, he said.
Balance North Idaho endorsed Regan's opponent, Hazel.
Graves chaired the Sorensen fundraiser, Regan said.
"I'm not giving any allegation of wrongdoing here, but what I am saying is that things like this can put the board in a difficult position, because the optics on it are very bad," he said.
He said that the $4,700 would have been better spent on something for the district rather than for printing services.
Lisa May, a Sorensen mother and parent who has worked on the school's auction, said the funds spent on the event were not school district dollars. They were raised by the parents at the school, she said.
Wendell Wardell, the district's chief operating officer, confirmed that the district handles the funds for Sorensen, but the money does not belong to the district.
May said she didn't want the Sorensen event to be "tarnished" by the discussion of the funds.
"No inappropriate behavior took place on the part of the district or any board member," May said.
Regan said he appreciated knowing that the money was just passing through the district's account and was not actually district funds.